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Change the Culture - Match Officials Treatment

By Staff, 03/22/23, 5:45PM EDT


Play. Inspire. Unite.

Last week, an article from the Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC) highlighted the issue around the culture of abuse against officials that exists in our society and around the world. Unfortunately, soccer in Ontario and Canada is not immune, as noted in the article and backed by commentary from one of our own, Nicole Pagliaro, who is also a member of Ontario Soccer’s Match Official Development Committee.

The article highlighted some key issues and commentary which we are happy to share with our community, in an effort to educate and raise awareness of the impact of official’s abuse on sport:

The bottom line is that sport organizations, parents, coaches, and athletes need to work together with officials to address abuse. The decline in officiating numbers isn’t an officials problem. It’s a sport culture problem.

- Brooke Briscoe, Basketball official and former Manager of Officials for Basketball BC

Back when I played high school hockey, decades ago, I had a coach who told us, ‘You say nothing to the referee other than, ‘hey, how’s it going? If you were rude to the ref, you sat the rest of the game. None of us ever complained. We need coaches to take leadership on this to change the culture.

- David Hancock, Professor, School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University

Hancock often does workshops with athletes as well:

I ask them, ‘How many mistakes does your team make per game?’ And they say, ‘I don’t know, maybe 50?’ And then I ask them, ‘How many does the referee make?’ If the ref is having a really bad game, it’s maybe 10. So don’t hyperfocus on that one person’s set of mistakes more than your own team’s.

Ontario Soccer is proud to lend its support and voice to stopping the cycle of abuse and bullying towards Match Officials through culture change, such as with our No Ref, No Game program. In addition, the issue has been identified as a key priority and research is currently underway on how we can further assist with supporting the incredible individuals that make up the Ontario Soccer Match Officials community. Recently, the first stage of a full review of discipline procedures and associated penalties was completed by an Ontario Soccer Focus Group that consisted of Match Officials, discipline program leaders, independent non-officials and District Members. This will be further reviewed in late summer 2023, for submission to Ontario Soccer’s Board of Directors and Voting Members Council.

We would like to thank SIRC for their efforts in raising awareness on this important subject. Most of all, we would like to thank our incredible Match Officials who sacrifice and endure so much – all for the love of the game. YOU ARE THE UNSUNG HEROES OF OUR BEAUTIFUL GAME!

At Ontario Soccer, Match Official recruitment is currently underway. Registration numbers are approaching pre-pandemic numbers, thanks to an influx in the last two weeks, but more are always welcomed. Officiating provides leadership skills, personal confidence, flexible work hours and more! Click here to learn more about 2023 Match Official Clinics, and to register for upcoming sessions.